Political Corner: The Polish elections present a teachable moment for left-wing opposition parties

It’s not enough anymore to simply be anti-nationalist

Poland re-elected right-wing nationalist Jarosław Kaczyński for a second term. Photo: Carsten Koall/Getty Images

By: Kelly Grounds, Peak Associate

With Canadian voters now recovering from our own election cycle, it is easy to forget about the politics of other countries and their potential repercussions. One example is Poland, which has also held parliamentary elections this month.

In 2015, the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party won the election easily, taking power away from the liberal Civic Coalition, by promising to work for Poland and its national identity. This is the platform that ultimately got them their second term. But which Poland has the party actually worked for?

Since 2015, Jarosław Kaczyński has called the LGBTQ2+ community a danger to society, going so far to say that the community is the biggest threat to Polish freedom since the Soviet era. So it is safe to say that the PiS is not interested in serving LGBTQ2+ individuals of Poland.

The PiS has instead focused their efforts on appealing to typical nuclear families. A majority of their support in the first election came from their promises to give families a monthly allowance for each child that they had. Once elected, the party followed through, helping many families improve their financial stability. It is unsurprising then that the PiS won by a large margin again in the election this month, even though many of their social policies don’t sit well with voters. 

The continuation of PiS rule in Poland is errily similar to the second-term re-election of Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, a far right politician who, on top of also being homophobic, is extremely anti-immigrant and has pulled Hungary to the far right. 

In both countries, opposition leaders had assumed they would have an easy time taking power back. Opposition strategies have been to push back hard against discrimmination policies, in addition to presenting themselves primarily as the antithesis to extreme right nationalists. This has also been the political reaction to the rise of far-right parties in other parts of the globe. However, this rhetoric has fallen short with voters who are looking for a solid platform to support, not simply an in-principle opposition party. In the wake of the Polish and Hungarian elections, it is clear that this strategy does not work. 

So what will? Going forward, the left-wing parties need a new strategy. Instead of focusing solely on being “the other guys” in politics, they should instead push their values and develop solid platforms, giving them a stronger presence in the elections. This would be a different way to show how they are the “other guy,” while backing up that claim with actual policy proposals.